Good vibes and ukulele jams fill the BYU campus

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[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ODMRUaXT7U&h=385&w=640]

A small group of students gets together to jam on their ukuleles, playing popular tracks such as One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” on the west side of the Harold B. Lee Library every Friday.

What started with three students has grown to nine in just a matter of weeks, drawing many listeners in the process.

Elan Maynez, Braden Blackford and Dallas Bitter came together through their ukulele skills and started to play on campus. Each new person that joins brings a new skill to the group, including improvisation or singing.

Maynez, known as “Mowgli” to many of his friends, described his ukulele as his “third arm” during his freshman and sophomore year at BYU. Maynez learned to play ukulele when he first tried to play guitar and couldn’t quite figure it out.

“I picked up ukulele when I lived in Hawaii,” Maynez said. “My friends just taught me through jamming.”

Elan Maynez and others, including new members, sing and play ukuleles. The ukulele players have grown in number each week since the beginning of the semester. (Alexander Balkman)

Students on campus have responded positively to the weekly songs. “People leave us money, say thank you and one lady even bought us lunch,” Maynez said. “People get the vibe that I’m doing it just to pick up girls but I’m not. I’m not even doing it for attention. I do it just cause it’s fun.”

Some group members were already friends beforehand; others have just come to enjoy the music.

“Elan and I were counselors for the sports camps at BYU this past summer,” ukulele player Taylor Heyman said. “One day he brought out his guitar during some free time, so I started singing along while he played … the rest is history.”

Heyman joins the group on campus frequently, describing it as “a fun thing to do during passing period.”

People who own ukuleles have come to join the music even when they don’t know how to play. Some try and learn on the go from the group, with lessons varying from beginners to advanced players.

Heyman and Maynez said that at times it gets chaotic with more than one song playing at once, but the group can usually unite for many of the big hits like Maroon 5, Jason Mraz, One Direction and Hawaiian cultural jams.

“The group is a total non-commitment thing. You just show up if you can and roll with it,” said Braden Blackford, who joins the group frequently on campus. Blackford said that he still comes to campus to enjoy the weekly tradition, even though he doesn’t have Friday classes.

Next time students pass by the library, they may hear something other than pages turning or small talk. The group invites anyone to listen each Friday at 1 p.m. on the west side of the Harold B. Lee Library.

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